Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

From health and safety measures to the music: five things to know about Dubai's Tomorrowland Around the World

The event could provide a new path for the UAE's live events industry

A glimpse of the virtual world created for Tomorrowland Around The World. Courtesy Tomorrowland
A glimpse of the virtual world created for Tomorrowland Around The World. Courtesy Tomorrowland

Dance music is back in the UAE.

With all UAE clubs shut down since March as a health precaution against the pandemic, EDM fans finally have a chance to groove along to the latest beats from the genre’s leading lights, courtesy of Tomorrowland Around the World.

Running on Saturday and Sunday, the festival, featuring Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike and Katy Perry, will take on a surreal air as it flips the script on Tomorrowland as we know it.

Where previous iterations, run under the name Unite with Tomorrowland, have functioned as a series of international satellite parties where revellers around the world could dance along to the live visual simulcast of the physical Tomorrowland event happening in Belgium, this year’s original event (dubbed Tomorrowland Around the World) will be held virtually and Dubai is the only location in the world to be celebrating it in physical form.

Such is the out-there nature of this concept that Nicolas Vandenabeele, founder of Envie Events, the team behind the festival, admits that people thought the initial event announcement was a hoax.

“People couldn’t believe it,” he recalls. “They were asking how it was going to happen in these times. What about the safety measures and social distancing? Of course, we thought all about that prior to announcing.”

Vandenabeele says the event serves a greater purpose in signalling to the world that Dubai is back in business.

Running as part of the ongoing Dubai Summer Surprises festival, the event is a collaboration with Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), and is a bid to create a safe and pioneering event that could forge the way forward for the local live music industry.

“There is a lot of messaging that comes with this event and it is part of the bigger plan to show the world that: ‘Guys, Dubai is open, we are starting up again. Come here and enjoy your holiday,'” he says. “And if we get this event right, then this will definitely be an example for other people on how to bring the live music industry back to the UAE.”

But how is it going to work?

Here are five things you need to know about Tomorrowland Around the World.

1. Capacity will be reduced

Think of the event as a hybrid of a rave and a private party.

For one thing, the capacity of Dubai Festival City Arena will be nothing short of intimate.

“The venue holds 8,000 people but due to social distancing restrictions, our capacity for this event will be 700 people,” Vandenabeele says.

There will also be no dance floor. Instead, the space will be used to place just over 100 tables and couches of various sizes that will host private groups ranging from four to 10 people.

Each group will be placed up to four metres apart with their area cordoned off by red rope. To further enhance that VIP feeling, a waiter will be on hand to take orders from each section. Menus can be uploaded on to your phone via a QR code.

“It is almost like the VIP lounges that you see in the clubs,” Vandenabeele says. “We want people to feel comfortable like they are in their own living room.”

2. There will be a giant screen

With the main Tomorrowland party going digital this year, Vandenabeele says the usual large LED screens will be replaced with one 20 metre by 12 metre projector screen.

“We want to pick up the amazing details of the virtual worlds that Tomorrowland created for the event. People need to know that the performing DJs will be superimposed on to that virtual world so we need to fully experience that,” he says. “So this is why we went with projection, it will give us the best quality visuals. We are running it almost like a movie screening.”

Of course, there will be a beefed-up sound system to guarantee fans feel every shuddering beat, and a blinding light show will create that rave vibe.

3. Getting in will be different

With health and safety paramount to the success of the event, Vandenabeele says nothing has been left to chance. Guests must wear face masks, and upon entry to the festival (queues will be monitored for social distancing) each reveller will walk through a sanitisation tunnel and undergo a thermal body check.

Anyone with a high temperature will be taken to a mobile quarantine zone where they will undergo further tests before being granted entry.

Once inside, people will enter the venue through a snake line to ensure no unnecessary mingling takes place.

Upon reaching their area, guests can then take off their masks and enjoy the show, but they will need to keep them, as they'll need to be worn again when going to the toilets or leaving the venue.

4. Distance must be maintained

These are unprecedented times, so the mass socialisation vibes of dance festivals do not apply here. While Dubai's Tomorrowland Around the World is one event, organisers instead want people to think of it as a series of private parties with their friends. This means no gatecrashers. Other than going to the toilets or leaving the venue, everyone needs to stay in their own sections.

“There won’t even be a warning,” Vandenabeele says. “There is too much at stake here. Anyone crossing over from their sections and going over to other designated areas will be immediately ejected. And with each table or couch four metres apart, it will be very visible. Everyone will see that the person didn’t do the right thing and now they have to leave.”

5. Success depends on you

There is no denying the fact that Tomorrowland Around the World is essentially an experiment. But if it succeeds, this could spell a whole new dawn for the UAE live music industry amid the pandemic.

However, in spite of all the best laid plans and rigorous health measures in place, Vandenabeele says it is ultimately up to the audience whether the event becomes a landmark moment for the UAE.

“Look, what we are doing is essentially a leap of faith,” he says. “We are counting on the common sense of people. Together, we can prove that this country can bounce back and do amazing, advanced events in a safe and responsible manner.”

Tomorrowland Around the World takes place on Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26 at Dubai Festival Arena, Dubai Festival City. 6pm to 2am. Tickets begin from Dh600 for a table of four. For details go to dubai.platinumlist.net

Updated: July 23, 2020 11:09 AM

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